As a registered dietitian nutritionist who truly believes that practicing yoga can improve overall health and well-being, I want to share some insight on the topic.
Yoga allows our bodies to establish a deeper mind-body connection through attention to breathing. It cultivates mindful awareness in our everyday living, including mindful eating. According to the Center for Mindful Eating Principles, mindfulness is an intention to become more aware of what is present to you mentally, emotionally and physically.
Food is incorporated into many experiences and emotions in our lives. We enjoy food to celebrate a momentous occasion, to comfort us when in need and sometimes, without realizing it, we use food to suppress our feelings.
Mindful eating allows us to become more aware of these moments, acknowledges the varying degrees of why we are eating and empowers us to make choices on how food can aid in nourishing our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Here are seven tips to practice mindful eating:
- Be present and breathe, as taught in the practice of yoga. Take your time and focus on the food that you are consuming for nourishment. Food provides our bodies with the nutrients needed to thrive.
- Free your environment from distractions. Turn off the TV, computer, smart phone and tablet. Take time to be present with your meals. Accept that your experience with food is unique. Be aware of possible effects of unmindful eating habits, such as weight gain or not feeling satisfied.
- Schedule time for your meals, time for preparation of the food, time for smelling the aroma of the food cooking, and time for eating. Allow time for this process and practice, taking time for yourself and your body’s nourishment.
- Enjoy the taste.Take small bites and understand your body’s feedback while eating. Stop when you feel satisfied. Understand your Hunger and Fullness Scale.
- Be one with nature. Consider consuming a variety of foods from nature and have an understanding of basic nutrition. Fiber within our fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains tend to aid in satiety and decrease our hunger cues.
- Cook from scratch. Our ancestors had one thing right regarding health and well being … cooking from scratch. There is something to be said about buying fresh vegetables, spices, herbs and fruit. It is an experience. From the texture in your hand, to the physical preparation, to the aroma of the meal cooking in your kitchen, and the sense of satisfaction you feel when preparation is complete.
- Plant a garden. There is a healing power behind watching a seed sprout into the food we eat. Start slowly, and plant something you enjoy consuming. Gardening helps us practice discipline to nurture the foods we consume.
A mindfulness-based intervention literature review was conducted recently and shows 86 percent of the studies reviewed report improvement in targeted eating behaviors. This review supports the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for changing obesity-related eating behaviors specifically binge eating, emotional eating, and external eating.
Practicing mindful eating habits can promote balance, awareness, and acceptance of our bodies, food choice, cultural beliefs, and environment. Just like any exercise, mindful eating takes practice, so practice often within your lifestyle for a feeling of overall balance and awareness.
For more information on starting a Yoga Wellness Program at your VA please see the Yoga Wellness Toolkit from the VA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.
Contact your local Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program Manager, Patient Centered Care Coordinator or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to see what program is available for you to help fine tune your mindfulness strategies.
Laura Dolena RDN, is a health promotion disease prevention program manager and a registered dietitian nutritionist at West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. Laura teaches MOVE! weight management, yoga and tai chi classes at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. Veterans and their families have the opportunity to take free yoga classes through a community based volunteer organization providing trauma conscious yoga therapy for service members, and their families in the USA. For more information visit: www.connectedwarriors.org